Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Batman, Volume 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and various artists

(pb; 2011, 2012: graphic novel, collecting issues #1 - 7 of Batman. Prequel to Batman, Volume 2: The City of Owls)

From the back cover:

"Batman has heard the tales of Gotham City's Court of Owls. Meeting in the shadows and using the nocturnal bird of prey as their calling card, the members of this powerful cabal are the true rulers of Gotham. But the Dark Knight dismissed the stories as rumors and old wives' tales. Gotham was his city.

"Until now.

"A brutal assassin is sinking his razor-sharp talons into the city's best and brightest, as well as its most dangerous and deadly. If the dark legends are true, his masters are more powerful predators than the Batman could ever imagine -- and their nests are everywhere. . ."


Review:

This reimagining of the Batman universe is a mixed bag of bad and good. Characters who have died in earlier versions of the Batman legend are still alive and that is mostly good (I can still do without the irritating brat who is Damian Wayne, a.k.a. the new Robin). The lethality, action and intensity of the writing and characters is especially high, considering how invasive the Owls are, and with their revealed entrenchment, so is the level of alarm that was aroused in this reader. This reworking of the Wayne family's violent past and present is truly bold and adventurous, and -- up to a point -- that is admirable.

I write "up to a point" because in his eagerness to further layer the backstory with elements that will include supporting characters, Snyder goes too far, with at least one of the supporting characters: it feels forced, too comic book-y, and it jarred me out of the story at several points.

I know some long-time Batman/DC Comics purists are put out by DC's rebranding and reworking of its characters (called "The New 52"), and while I am not, I can see where they might be. If you are looking for an Old School version of Batman, you probably should not be reading Court of Owls or its two sequels (the aforementioned Volume 2: The City of Owls and The Night of the Owls).

Court is an exciting and occasionally goes-too-far read, one worth checking out from the library. I would not want to own it, even at a discounted price, but I mostly enjoyed it.

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